Sunday, March 10, 2013

Followup on - My DirecTV alternative or How I got rid of DirecTV

When DirecTV sent yet again another price increase notice this year I was not going to pay even more than the $127 a month I was already paying them to watch TV.  I posted a few weeks back how I setup  environment so I did not have to pay DirecTV another dime.  I want to post now the followup ot that.

I had a lot of friends and family ask me why I wanted to do this.  Most people asked me "How can I do the same thing, what about the channels like SyFy and TNT".  I wan't to take a step back here for just one second before I go into this to point out that when I look at service providers I try to weigh the cost of the use on an hourly basis to see what kind of value I am getting out of something.  Let me give you an example.

Rhapsody (a popular and my favorite music service) I pay $14.95 for basically unlimited access to all the music I want whenever I want, wherever I want.  Up to three devices can be linked to it and so my two daughters and myself get to listen to music on our phones and the web for one low price.

So if between the three of us we spend 12 hours a day listening to music at home and work that means in a month (average 30 days) we use around 360 hours of the service.  So at $14.95/mo we divide the 360 hours and $0.042 per hour.  So for an hour of entertainment I'm paying about 8 cents.

If you look at DirecTV for the everything but all the movie channels package and 2 DVR's plus HD service I was paying $127 a month for an SD DVR, HD DVR and one set top box.   Now, the amount of TV I watch in a week is probably around 20 hours given all the kids in the house, etc.  That comes out to 600 hours or $0.212 per hour.

So if you compare the two.  The cost per hour of entertainment from one to another is a 405 % increase over each other.  So that is why I ditched DirecTV.

Now to followup on a few things and lessons learned here.

First I would do this again in a heartbeat. It was a smart move for me in saving a lot of money using technology.  All it took was a few weeks for everyone to get used to the process.  The only complaint that I have heard is that it's not very easy to "Channel Surfing" around and find something.  I do agree with that complaint as instead of channel surfing you have to know what you want to watch on TV.  I've found though that it's still cheaper to buy one episode of something and see if you like it vs. paying the huge cost of entertainment DirecTV was.

Services That Made All This Happen
Hulu Plus - Channels like Nick so the kids can watch SpongeBob
Netflix - Movies and more
Amazon Prime - Lots of prime videos often better stuff than netflix but you also get free 2 day shipping on anything you by there.  $70/year but I make that up alone in what I buy there.
Xbox Video - This is the big winner here.  Xbox video has tons of recent and current TV series.  SyFy, TNT and more.  You can buy season passes for shows you like.  I like "Anger Management" and I'm able to watch all of those.
Vudu - Ultraviolet movies and their own movies.  Rentals and Purchases.  Nice thing here is that you can also watch these movies with Flixster on your phone or tablet.

So I am able to watch just about everything any of my friends are watching.  Falling Skies for example I started watching on Amazon Prime.  Anger Management I get on Xbox Video.

Lessons Learned after doing this
Remote Control - I went out and got a Harmony remote to control all this.  You can probably cheap out and get a universal remote but the Harmony had macros.  Which means I could program the watch TV button to turn on all the devices, Switch the HDMI input on the TV to HDMI2 and turn on the Xbox.  One complaint I heard was how difficult it was remember what device was on what input.  Plus the volume is controlled by my surround sound amp so it was 6 remotes on my end table.  Now I have only one.  You can do what I did and go to Best Buy and tell them the remote is cheaper on (which it was) then you can get it same day.  Or buy it on Amazon with your two day shipping ;)  Lesson learned, get a good universal remote.

Xbox centric - First let it be said I hate Microsoft.  However the Xbox as an entertainment device works very well.  They need a Rhapsody app but otherwise it is how we keep from switching around.  The Xbox works very well and we can access the Windows Media Center through the Xbox so there is no real need to use the media center pc except for Skype.  So the lesson learned here is having the xbox as the main tool for watching TV centralizes everything.  Since we have kinect on it we can also just shout "Xbox, Pause" if we're in the other room.

Media Center PC/Xbox Conflict - One reason we also use the Xbox is because the media center PC remote and the Xbox remote are identical.  (It's this kind of stuff that make me hate Microsoft).  So what I ended up having was the PC doing weird things or the Xbox doing weird things depending on if I was on the MCPC or the Xbox.  So ultimately I covered the sensor on the MCPC and just use the Xbox as an extender.

Skype! - I got a webcam that clips onto a monitor and now I can Skype my parents in Florida through the bigscreen.

Pay as you go - Put a budget together.  I took the approach of I was spending $120+ a month on DTV.  So with pay as you go you can get a whole season pass for a show for $20 or less.  So if you get even one new season pass a month you're still way ahead.  So don't be afraid to spend some money on a show you like.

Amazon Rentals - Lots of $1.99 rentals.  Redbox is $1.20 and I don't have to get off the couch.  Big savings here because there is no late fees and I dont have to spend gas getting there.

Roku - With the Roku the kids can have their own wireless TV.  This works great plus with Plex you can stream your windows media saved files to the Roku.

After several weeks this process works very well.  For everyone that was curious about how I did it all here it all is.  All of these services I've subscribed to like Hulu and Netflix still save me well over $100/mo.  If you dont have an Xbox, you can buy one for $99 with a 2 year commitment to pay $14.95/mo to Microsoft for Xbox live.  While this is a bit more expensive than buying the xbox outright and paying for Xbox live you can get a working setup with low cost.

So far I've saved now $250 not having to pay this bill.  :)